Meet Amtrak's Singing Café Car Guy

Posted Apr 1st 2011 01:00 PMUpdated Apr 1st 2011 04:54 PM


amtrak cafe singer


If you take a ride on on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner when Anthony Bryant is onboard, you'll hear him sing. This railroad café car worker is not a trained singer, he tells AOL Travel News, but he is a train singer. We couldn't resist.

Bryant, 52, has been working for Amtrak for 18 years. But it's only in the past few years, on the scenic Southern California coastal route, that he's felt the urge to break into song.

He comes on the PA system as the train pulls away from the station – the Pacific Surfliner serves the coast from San Diego to Los Angeles up to San Luis Obispo – and sings to passengers both a greeting and the café car menu.

"The reason I started to sing is primarily when it's not too busy in the café car, and people are sitting up and enjoying the fine scenery of the ocean, they need a little push to come downstairs and purchase something," Bryant says.

But he says he also sings to make people happy.


"I have a passion about this job and seeing people enjoy themselves," he says. "And people have problems, so anything you can do to enhance a person's experience, and bring an interchange between people, I think is good."

Bryant starts every trip off with his own little ditty that includes the line, "Every day's a beautiful day for a train ride."

He then sings favorites on the café car menu – among the items are sandwiches, snacks and beverages.

In a phone interview, Bryant describes a typical day, "I say, 'Good morning, welcome aboard, this is your café attendant Anthony,'" and then he bursts into song on the phone: "We're featuring coffee, tea, herbal tea, Sara Lee muffins, 'because nobody doesn't like Sara Lee...'"

Bryant's repertoire also includes "I Love You California," the official state song. A Philadelphia native, now living in San Diego, Bryant sings with enthusiasm, "I love you, California, you're the greatest state of all I love you in the winter, summer, spring, and in the fall."

He says people often comment on the song, "because we have a lot of people in California who have never heard the state song."

Bryant does not sing the folk song "I've Been Working on the Railroad." But he has been known to sing "Happy Birthday," on request.

All in a Day's Work

The café car employee does a rotating work cycle on the train, which has him doing some 15-hour days followed by days off.

Bryant starts his day typically around 4:15 a.m., heading straight to the commissary, about two miles from the station in L.A., to stock up.

Riders are most likely to see him on the route between Los Angeles and San Diego, which takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes, with 12 daily round-trips. But Bryant also sometimes works the train farther north up to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.

The bi-level Pacific Surfliner has panoramic windows to view ocean stretches including around San Juan Capistrano – Bryant's favorite. Because this is California – there are also racks on the train for both bikes and surfboards.

Bryant says he used to play jazz on a CD player in the café, but ran into bureaucratic issues with that. "So I spread to singing a little bit," he says.

He also tries to attract customers to the café car with other little gimmicks.

"I have a rotating fish tank going and a 'sharks' sign on the wall. A lot of gimmies going on here," he says.

The café car sells "adult (alcoholic) beverages," Bryant says in a hushed voice. But his personal favorite is the jalapeno cheeseburgers, pre-packaged and, he notes, "not the same as what you'd find at Costco."

Why Trains Rock

Bryant, who has also worked in food service at restaurants and hospitals, says he's always been a fan of train travel and doesn't drive.

"For me trains are just a beautiful way of traveling," he says. "When I was a kid I went from Philly down to Baltimore and up to New York by train. And you could met a lot of different people n the train and in the café car."

Bryant first started with Amtrak on the cross-country route from Los Angeles to Sanford, Florida.

"There were 15 to 20 stops along the way and loyal travelers. Say, in Alpine, Texas, a couple of ladies took the train from Alpine to New Orleans. It was so gratifying to see them every time they came through."

These days, Bryant's PA system performances have been known to earn him an ovation, though he gets suddenly shy when asked how people respond to his singing.

"Most people like me, I guess. The conductors seem to like my singing. Some people tell me they really enjoyed it."

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alexandria is great to see that AOL profiled one of the great staff servicing us commuters. this guy is GREAT and i have to make the trip down to the cafe car when he is working. you will know it is him, because his voice is so distinguishable among all the other cafe attendants. GREAT STORY!!! thanks!

April 06 2011 at 5:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i have been traveling on AMTRAK for almost 18 years now and about to embark on my "14" cross/country journey....we have an amazing country and never get tired of seeing it...."COME ON PEOPLE"....slow down,.... see don't know what your missing..!!!!!.......remember.."happiness is a journey....not a destination"......

April 01 2011 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Took my son on the Coastal Starligh when he was 5 and also when he was 10 from Seattle to LA it was a great experiance for both of us....we had beds on the the world go by but always relaxed when we get there we get there .....its not like a European train system. I withness some of the people on the train that went balistic when it was going to be 3-4 hrs late but the employees did a great jog defusing the situation. The train has to share the tracks with the Frieght Trains. My son is now 22 and he has pleasent memories of the trip.

April 01 2011 at 6:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is nice to see a worker treat his riders with music.
I would ride his train anyday.

April 01 2011 at 6:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I took an Amtrak from Florida to NYC. Had a sleeper, and will never do it agian. Went back to flying.

April 01 2011 at 6:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mike's comment

I did the same job that this gentleman does but out of Boston for a number of years back in the 90's. I loved the job, enduring long days and staying in hotels,but it was a job I loved because of the people I met. I would do my best to take care of the passengers and tell jokes and do little comedy and just try to make people smile.
When doing Club Service (kinda like 1st class back then) I would treat everyone the same and make it fun no matter how "Stuffed Shirt" or "Stuck Up" the passenger could be. Some didn't like my fun attitude and they were just snobs and others really did, and I would explain that this was a Train not a Plane, and that they didn't get the same treatment as 1st Class on a plane and if they didn't like it they could write to Amtrak about me, (never got a complaint).
I wish I still had the job ,but I couldn't work onboard after having knee surgery, I moved to being a ticket agent, big cut in pay and I hated it so I left Amtrak. But train travel is fun and relaxing and I'm glad to see it growing, now we just need more funding for faster service and state of the art equipment. After all the Railroads built this country and we shouldn't let them vanish as in the past..

April 04 2011 at 12:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am very glad that someone is willing to go out of their way to see people happy. Now a days, people are not as they use to be. I have been with people of all walks of life and have seen how they act towards one another. Our morales are no longer the same. The urge to do good, regardless of the circumstances, is only shown by few. To Bryant, you have shown me what few could. Thank you and I hope you have a great time singing your song.

April 01 2011 at 6:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sing, sing, sing. It is good for your heart and soul. Live life to the fullest as it has an expiration date. dlm

April 01 2011 at 6:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

now a days theres so much violence ,sadness etc. like others below said this is great , nice to know theres people in this world that like to make those who they don't even know happy

April 01 2011 at 6:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael N.Landis

Wonder if this was the same snack-car manager who kept up the amusing patter on the SouthWest Zepher, back in 2001? He touted his snack-bar while contrasting its informality and flexibility with the rigid rules and schedules of the dining car and its stuffy announcer. He had the passengers rolling in the aisles all the way from Sacramento to Chicago!

April 01 2011 at 6:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love this guy. I always found AMTRAK employees more than willing to please. The four years my daughter was in college, I would take the train from CT to NH. Yes, it took longer than the car ride, but every trip was a little adventure, and I'll never forget the people I met along the way. I always felt glad when the tracks intersected the interstates that I wasn't in one of the cars fighting traffic. It would be great if we could get train travel more accessible and affordable again.

April 01 2011 at 5:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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